Luxor is referred to as the “hassle capital of Egypt” and sometimes the “hassle capital of the world” frequently on the net…..and to some degree that is true……the hassle at Luxor Train Station drives me nuts (when I think about it, so I try not to!) and the hassle at the Giza Plateau is unreal!.

But the street hassle in Luxor? – to some degree I have an explanation for it and sometimes when we gain an understanding of a different culture it takes the sting out of  the problem and provides us with a solution.

You are in Luxor, just stepped out of your hotel to take a stroll in the bazaar or along the Nile, when suddenly you are assailed by shouts of
“Fellucca! Fellucca!”
“Tax! Tax!”
“Calesh! Calesh!”
“Come see my shop!”
“I will take you to the market! Only today market open!  Closed tomorrow!  Special Egyptian Market!  I will get you good price! Cheap! Cheap prices!  No hassle!”

Your initial reaction is to say “No” or “No Thank you!” in your native language or if you are reading the online tips, blogs etc. .you will have read that “La Shukran” (meaning “no thank you”) will work a charm!  Well, no it won’t so I have to wonder what other charms these tipsters and advisors used!

Everyone working with tourists in Luxor has a smattering of practically every language in the world (definitely they know the translation in every language for the word “NO” because it is being shouted at them every day) so, in Heaven’s Name WHY won’t any of them take “NO!”for an answer???

THE ANSWER IS VERY SIMPLE (and I can’t understand why I have never seen it anywhere on the net and have never heard it from an Egyptian Guide, Travel Agent or Tour Operator/Leader)…

The following are all tactics generally used when bargaining!

  •  “No!”     “No thank you!”     “Not now!”    “Tomorrow”  “Maybe Later!”
  • Walking away and staring either at the ground or straight ahead
  • Expressing dis-interest = not expressing interest
  • Shaking your head
  • Not answering

Picture this….
Ahmed and his wife, Sammar stroll into the bazaar in Luxor.   They are greeted with invitations to visit the various shops….they smile at some, they shake their heads at others.   They know they are going to buy her a gallabeya (long dress for wearing at home).   They are stopped in front of a shop selling clothes and Ahmed shakes his head at the man’s invitation to come in.  The man persists – Ahmed and Sammar enter the shop.  The man in the bazaar knows they are going to buy a dress otherwise they would not have entered his shop and Ahmed would not have shaken his head at the initial invitation.

So another man in the shop rushes over to offer them tea, cola, water, asks who they are buying for -(is it for Sammar or a family member).  He also asks what colour they have in mind.  Not to pay them this attention is considered dis-respectful.  The shopkeeper pulls out various dresses and Sammar shows little or no interest while Ahmed is probably exchanging comments with passersby or others in the shop.  It is a leisurely event and nobody is in a hurry.  Ahmed asks the price of one of the jallabeyas and expresses lack of interest because of the price.

Eventually it comes down to one or two gallabeyas and they begin seriously discussing the price.  Ahmed or Sammar may get up to leave not having completed the deal…..now comes the last price from the shopkeeper.  There is a smile from Ahmed – he is happy to pay this for his lovely wife’s gallabeya….more smiles all round, handshake between Ahmed and the shopkeeper – the deal has been agreed to everyone’s satisfaction..

So every gesture used by tourists to turn away the taxi, calesh man etc. has been involved in this shopping adventure.  Now, can you understand that the men in the street shouting at you for the most part don’t know if you are genuinely not interested or just really good at bargaining ! ?

THREE TYPES OF SHOPS IN THE SOUK

SO WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?  What can tourists do to discourage the sellers and touts, enjoy their holiday, keep their sense of humour, get good bargains and keep their sanity?  ANSWER:  Walk like an Egyptian!!  So simple but not easy….needs a little bit of practice.  Walk out of the hotel, head high, make eye contact with the sellers, SMILE, NOD and KEEP WALKING.  Now you must do all 3 at the same time, this is why it takes practice.  Normally if we smile or acknowledge a person we tend to stop and chat…DON”T STOP!

By smiling and nodding you are acknowledging you heard the offer, think it is good/agreeable but you are not in the market for the product right now…but you must keep walking.  Smiling, nodding and stopping makes you dead meat!!  Pretend you are a King or Queen smiling and nodding to the crowds!

Additional side effects to using this strategy?  Of course!  You feel happy, confident and in control!

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Mara

Owner at Mara House Hotel Luxor
Hi - I'm Mara (Marie Vaughan) from Ireland...my aim is to be the best at what I do - not the cheapest so please do not compare Mara House products with others based on price...compare us on quality of service.

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4 Comments

  1. Jamie Polich 01/04/2017 at 1:59 am

    It works. Walk like an Egyptian. be friendly, smile, make the eye contact, nod, keep walking, and enjoy the shopping experience. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal in the middle of bargaining, especially if the price is no good. Don’t walk away if you have agreed a price though, your own integrity then is in question and plus it is breaking the unwritten rules, you will be the loser in the exchange and lose face. Again smile, point out any flaws, find something else to look at first before you ‘notice’ what you really want, smile, walk like an Egyptian. It’s easy if you really want to. Otherwise you will be relieved of your cash and you’ll feel bad. That is then your fault for not having empathy.Shopping is so much fun when you figure this out and the Egyptians will likely invite you for Shisha (if male) – have your phrase book handy and try a conversation in broken Arabic, Egyptians initially will be cautious and once they assess you as genuinly trying to establish a relationship, prices seem to drop from tourist price to reasonable tourist price (if you’re really good you can get close to local price – that takes effort though – no magic trick for this other than to smile, walk like and Egyptian and try to understand.

     
  2. John P 28/06/2013 at 11:07 pm

    This whole section was really useful for our first trip to Luxor. Helps a lot to have another opinion and some guidelines from someone who knows.

     

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